New research shows that those who are outcasts at school are more likely to succeed in life.
Have you ever worried about whether your child has enough friends at school? Have you felt like a bit of an outsider at work or at college? The latest research suggests, not only that we tend to worry too much about these things but, feeling like a loner or an outcast is something that we should positively celebrate.
Research from the University of Virginia, suggests that there is an inverse relationship between how popular people are at school and how successful they are in life. The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, tracked the lives of 184 adolescents over ten years. It found that not only are those kids who have fewer friends more likely to be successful. Those who are considered the cool kids, are significantly more likely, than their less popular counterparts, to mess things up later in life.
Parents worry about whether their children are lonely. Most of us will worry at some stage about our own popularity. To many people, even the mildest sense of social isolation can be a source of anxiety.
We worry about these things because our minds are susceptible to a number of fallacies. For one, we are likely to mistake a temporary situation for a permanent one. What’s more we are likely to over estimate the extent to which things are attributable to a person’s character, as opposed to the context or circumstances. We start to think little Timmy doesn’t have a lot of friends because he doesn’t make friends easily. He’d be better off choosing a career that doesn’t involve working with people.
We recommend a way to remedy these thinking flaws. Ask yourself in what ways could this situation be:
If the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to any of the above, you are likely to find yourself feeling less stressed, more optimistic and able to function better.
As we say in the opening chapter of Be Bulletproof:
Look at the biographical details of most high achievers. Far from leading consistently gilded lives, most of these people spent long periods in the wilderness.
Why are less popular kids more successful? It’s during periods in the social wilderness that interesting minds are formed. The same is true for an adult who experiences a period of feeling like an outsider. Always functioning at the same level of popularity, requires an easy clubbable blandness, that eludes the most curious and original minds. As the philosopher Carl Jung put it.
… As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things, which others apparently know nothing of and for the most part do not want to know… Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself.
Not only are periods of feeling lonely, not necessarily damaging, on the contrary, they should be celebrated. In e we explore the idea of the cave. It’s an idea that comes from the notion of the Hero’s Journey, a universal story structure about personal growth and challenge. The cave is the darkest part of our journey. It is the point at which we might feel, lost, beaten, broken, or of course, lonely. The cave is also the part of the journey where we most readily learn and grow.
It puts me in mind of the story of a shop-owner’s daughter from a dull Lincolnshire town who went up to Oxford in the 1940s to study chemistry. She found it difficult to fit in and became a bit of an outsider. Because of her small-town attitudes she was given the nick-name ‘Snobby Roberts’. In fact Roberts was her maiden name. She became better known by her married name, Thatcher. Yes, that’s the one. Love her or loathe her, she certainly made a difference.
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